GONZALES – Where does Ascension Parish Government go after the Parish Council has declared no confidence in indicted President Kenny Matassa? That is a question being asked after Matassa has shown no signs of resigning following a vote by the council at its previous meeting to pass a resolution to express their call that he do just that.
The resolution that the council passed 6-4 acknowledges that it has neither the right nor the ability to force the resignation of the Parish President. It also acknowledges the indictment by a grand jury of Matassa on the charge of bribery and said while it doesn’t it itself constitute a conviction, it does affect his ability to perform his duty and reflects negatively on the entire parish.
Be it resolved, that the Ascension Parish Council hereby has no confidence in Matassa’s ability to uphold the responsibilities of the office and calls for his resignation immediately, is what Council Members Daniel Satterlee, Aaron Lawler, Bill Dawson, Teri Casso, Randy Clouatre and John Cagnolatti voted in favor of.
What was passed preserved Matassa’s rights of due process and admitted the resolution didn’t offer a legal opinion or judgement. Councilmen Oliver Joseph, Dempsey Lambert, Travis Turner and Todd Lambert voted against the measure and Councilman Benny Johnson was absent.
Satterlee made the motion to adopt the vote of no confidence and Lawler made a substitute motion to vote on his draft. There were a total of 14 people who spoke when the resolution came before the council including several members of Matassa’s family.
Legal Counsel O’Neil Parenton said discussion of character or confidence may be held in executive session. Matassa was present for much of the meeting posing for photo opportunities and delivering a report but left the council chambers before the resolution, the last agenda item, came up.
Matassa and Gonzales businessman Olin Berthelot were indicted by a grand jury March 10 on one count each of offering something of value to A. Wayne Lawson to drop out of a Gonzales City Council election Nov. 8. Both are proclaiming their innocence and posted a $5,000 bond but face felony charges with a penalty if convicted of two years in prison and/or a $2,000 fine.
The bride allegation was first reported by a blog, owned by Wade Petite, who has been highly critical of Matassa, a former city councilman, and also was a candidate for a city council seat himself. Audio recordings were also released through the site at that time last summer.
The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office took over the investigation after the 23rd Judicial District Attorney’s Office recused themselves from the case because of employees funding Matassa’s campaign. They presented witnesses before the grand jury on two separate occasions before Matassa and Berthelot were indicted.
Members of the council did not debate or express further than the vote but the public comments were mixed with a majority in favor of the resolution citing the indictment described as a “political black-eye” with a highly charged issue, according to a former parish president candidate Kathryn Goppelt.
Republican Party Executive Committee co-Chairman Al Robert also requested Matassa’s resignation while others said shame should be felt with what was said on the tapes and people in government should be held to a higher standard.
“He and his buddy don’t get to decide who runs in an election,” said Chase Melancon.
Brennan Howell has set up a petition to recall Matassa and said elected officials are chosen to “lead us, not bribe us.” C.J. Lambert, a former parish councilman candidate, complained about Matassa’s campaign signs’ proximity to a senior sock hop and others raised issue with Matassa’s brother receiving a pay hike.
Former Ascension Parish Councilman Alvin Thomas, who himself was convicted of taking a bribe a decade ago, spoke against the resolution asking to let the process take its course.
“Who is he to cast the first stone,” Thomas said.
Others cited Matassa’s honesty, integrity and compassion and asked not to convict him before his day in court. Two of those included Matassa’s wife Selma Matassa and their son Nick Matassa.
Nick Matassa was burned during an explosion at a chemical plant during his dad’s election campaign and said when he came out of a coma Kenny Matassa told he wouldn’t run because family comes first. Matassa said he told his dad he couldn’t step down because it was his lifelong dream and he cares more about the parish than any of you know asking to focus on the good things he does.
“There are a lot of things all you people don’t know,” Selma Matassa said citing the work load of the parish president.
Satterlee had asked for a vote of no confidence not long after the recordings were released but the item never found its way to the agenda. Earlier this year, he led a group of concerned citizens in a visit with representatives from the Attorney General’s Office about the process of an indictment, which is only a formal charge and not an indication of guilt which must be determined at trail.
Matassa is being represented by Lewis Unglesby and have claimed the indictment is part of perpetration hashed by political opponents.